+0
Hi MrP, how are you doing? Thanks for your last corrections of my paper, which I sent some days ago. I’m finishing another paper, and I have quite a few doubts. There are a couple of long paragraphs. Hope this is not a problem:

1) “Bett, as well as Annas, uses the term “modern” to designate what I refer to as “contemporary”. I also prefer the label “ethical skepticism” to “moral skepticism”.”

Is it ok to use the third person singular here (“uses”)?

2) “One of the views most commonly adopted by contemporary ethical skepticism is the one which denies that moral values or moral facts form part of the objective world. This position is usually designated “ontological ethical skepticism” or “skepticism about moral reality”, in opposition to epistemological versions of ethical skepticism, such as the view which denies that moral knowledge is possible and that which denies that moral beliefs are justified. Ontological ethical skepticism also implies skepticism about the truth of moral beliefs: as first-order moral assertions presuppose the existence of moral facts or properties and these do not exist in the objective world, then all such assertions are false. Now, in the late 80s a discussion took place between Julia Annas and Richard Bett regarding the question of whether this sort of ethical skepticism is in itself “local”, that is to say, whether it arises and is possible only if it is based upon a conception of the world immune to skeptical arguments. Annas claimed such skepticism is by nature local, which gave rise to Bett’s objection. Unfortunately, there has been no subsequent analysis of the cogency of Bett’s argument against Annas’ position, and hence no further examination of whether or not the latter’s thesis is correct. I believe that this assessment is still significant because it will allow us to identify the exact theoretical underpinnings of the view that morality has no objective validity, a view that, as has already been noted, is adopted by quite a few present-day ethical skeptics. The aim of the present paper is therefore to continue the discussion between Annas and Bett about the local character of contemporary ethical skepticism. This is why its title derives from that of an article by Bett, which in turn has its origin in Annas’ claim that this ethical skepticism “is essentially local”.”

3) “Next, I shall portray in broad outline the skeptical outlook regarding morality that is found in the second century Greek Pyrrhonist Sextus Empiricus, since this will help to see more clearly whether being local is essential to contemporary ethical skepticism. Finally, I shall attempt to show that Bett’s argumentation does not succeed in proving the falsehood of the thesis put forward by Annas”.

4) “But she is more precise and constantly presents science as the area immune to skeptical attack.”

5) “As indicated at the paper’s outset, Bett opposes the view that ethical skepticism’s being local is a sine qua non for holding that there are no objective moral values.”

6) “Now, to make his case against this view, Bett argues that there are two forms in which someone who is skeptical of morality and who has confidence in the possibility of objective descriptions of reality may lose this confidence.”

7) “In this section, I shall describe in rough outline the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. The reason for offering this sketch is that taking into account the Pyrrhonist’s peculiar ethical outlook will make it possible in the next section to assess more easily whether or not Bett’s position has any real basis.”

8) “The fact that the positions in conflict seem to have the same weight –i.e. the fact that there is no more to be said pro than con any of them– determines that the disagreement between them is undecidable.”

I wrote “pro” and “con” in italics. I’ve seen them used in English, but I don’t remember whether they go in italics (I know that “the pros and cons” don’t).

9) “To see the Pyrrhonean attitude at work, we can think of a Pyrrhonist’s facing a given disagreement, say, the disagreement about whether or not abortion is morally wrong. He would examine the arguments for and against the immorality of abortion, trying to determine if one of the contending views grasps its real nature. One of the parties to the dispute will argue, for instance, that the fetus has a soul, which makes him/her a human being, and that the murder of a human being is something morally wrong. This party may also put forward an argument based upon religious beliefs: God has created the fetus and, hence, is the only one who can make decisions about his/her death. The contrary party will probably argue that it is absurd to claim that a three-month-old fetus is a person as much as any of us; that the notion of a creating god does not make sense for them; and that we must privilege the woman’s right to decide what to do with her body and life. The Pyrrhonist will weigh up these opposing arguments, and will first note that the different opinions about abortion that people held appear to be relative to factors similar to those mentioned in the so-called Tenth Mode of Aenesidemus. He will point out that such opinions seem to be dependent upon each party’s familial, cultural, and social background, as well as upon its religious, metaphysical, and scientific beliefs and theories, so that one will be able to say how abortion appears to be in relation to each of these factors, but not how it is in itself. But the Pyrrhonist’s inquiry will not stop here: he will attempt to determine whether any of the parties in conflict can justify its claims. For doing so, the Pyrrhonist will turn to three of the so-called Five Modes of Agrippa, according to which, in trying to justify any claim, one falls into either infinite regress or circular reasoning, or makes an unjustified assertion. That is to say, in attempting to prove the truth of an assertion, a person will have to prove the truth of the premises from which he infers the assertion, and so on ad infinitum. To avoid being thrown back ad infinitum, he will try to establish the truth of one of the links of the chain of proofs by having recourse to the first link whose truth he set out to establish, thus falling into circularity. Or he will argue that one of the links of the chain needs no proof to establish its truth because, for instance, it is self-evident. To this the Pyrrhonist will respond that the contrary party can proceed in exactly same way, thus being no reason for trusting one of them rather than the other. As a result, the Pyrrhonist will be unable to decide the disagreement over the morality or immorality of abortion, and will therefore suspend judgment over the matter. Of course, he would proceed in the same way as regards the disagreement over the existence or inexistence of anything good or bad by nature. There are two important points that we must bear in mind. First, the Pyrrhonist is not committed to the criteria of justification formulated in the three modes in question, but only uses them because such criteria are accepted by the dogmatists themselves as ruling their own reasoning. Second, the Pyrrhonist does not rule out the possibility of ever finding a claim that meets the dogmatists’ standards, since for all he knows there might be an assertion or set of assertions that could survive the assault of the Agrippan modes.”

I’m not sure whether the vocabulary I use here to talk about the dispute over abortion sounds like English or as Spanglish.

10) “We see that the Pyrrhonist’s stance is characterized by an extremely cautious agnosticism, which prevents him from making rash judgments about the nature and existence of anything. He does not hide his ignorance and acknowledges that at least so far his investigations have not had any positive results, but this lack of success does not lead him to believe that the search for justified beliefs is desperate.”

11) “More precisely, this kind of ethical skepticism is at the same time both a negative and a positive dogmatism. Negative insofar as the ethical skeptic denies the existence of objective moral values. Positive both in an ontological and epistemological sense, since he believes that there exists an external world whose real nature he is able to know. It is on the basis of this knowledge that he denies that the theories which affirm the existence of objective moral values have real grounds. That is to say, negative dogmatism in ethics is the consequence of a positive dogmatism which, leaving aside the different forms that it can take, claims to know what the kinds of things that really exist are.”

Should “negative” and “positive” go in inverted commas when I explain what I mean by them.

12) “The reason why at the end of section two I emphasized that the form of ethical skepticism we are dealing with asserts the existence of an objective world is that this assertion is possible only if one has some kind of epistemological access to this existing world. Indeed, if according to the non-local ethical skeptic Bett describes our ideas do not adequately represent anything outside us, we should ask how he can know that there exists a mind-independent world in the very first place.”

By the way, who is “Pier Luigi”? I apologize for this manifestation of ignorance.

Thank you in advance!

Sextus
1 2 3 4
Comments  (Page 3) 
11) ...Indeed, it would seem that, to know that there is no correspondence whatsoever between any of our ideas and the objective world, Bett’s non-local skeptic must paradoxically have some kind of epistemological access to the true nature of this very thing our ideas fail to represent adequately. Furthermore, if according to the non-local ethical skeptic described by Bett our ideas do not adequately represent anything outside us, one should ask how he can know that there exists a mind-independent world in the first place...

Otherwise fine!

I'll be back to pick up your supplementaries...But tomorrow, I think.

See you,
MrP
Hello Sextus

4) Yes, that's fine – 'inevitably' is stronger.

6) Yes, it's a past subjunctive; but 'accounts' is fine too.

17) The placing of 'on account of' is slightly awkward; it attaches itself to 'are parties' rather than 'impossibility'. 'To be party to' is fine, as a set phrase. I think you would have to say 'judgment with regard to', rather than 'over'. 'Appears' would be more BrE; but I think yes, in AmE you would be likely to see a subjunctive.

See you later,
MrP
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
.
Hi MrP. As my message ended up on page three, I take the freedom to post it again.

1) "The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the positions which are party to these various disputes, on account of their apparent equipollence, leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment with regard to the matters in question. Hence, the mere fact that there is diversity of points of view, opinions, or theories is not in itself sufficient to induce suspension of judgment: it is also necessary that none of them appear to have more weight than the others.”

Yes, I also felt that the "on account of..." is kind of weird. Perhaps: "...disputes, due to the fact that their arguments appear to be equipollent,..."?

2) You've already seen this paragraph, where I use the term “party”, and when referring to it I use the possessive adjective “its” and then the personal pronoun “they”. The point is that I’m not sure whether I should rather use “their”/ “they” or “its” / “it” or just leave the way it is.

“He will point out that such opinions seem to be dependent upon each party’s familial, cultural, and social background, as well as upon its religious, metaphysical, and scientific beliefs and theories, so that one may say how abortion appears to be in relation to each of these factors, but not how it is in itself. But his inquiry will not stop there: he will attempt to determine whether any of the contending parties can justify its claims. That is to say, in attempting to prove the truth of an assertion, one of the parties will have to prove the truth of the premise from which they infer the assertion, and so on ad infinitum. Or, to avoid being thrown back ad infinitum, they will try to establish the truth of one of the links of the chain of reasons by having recourse to the first link whose truth they set out to establish, thus falling into circularity. Or they will argue that one of the links of the chain needs no proof to establish its truth because, for instance, it is self-evident or self-justifying.”

3) "I underline this point because, in discussing his paper through written communication, Bett pointed out to me that Annas had claimed that contemporary ethical skepticism rests on a non-skeptical position regarding science, and that what he had intended to prove was that this need not be so."

4) "It follows from this that when I translate the term anepikritos as “undecidable”, I do not use this word in a strong sense. I think that if up to now the arguments put forward by the parties to a dispute have appeared to a person to have equal force it is consistent to say that at least so far it has not been possible for that person to give his assent to any of the contending positions".

Thanks,

Sextus
Sorry, I was coming back to it. These threads are drifting down at an alarming rate these days.

1) The two 'facts' are slightly awkward. How about this:

The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the positions which because of their apparent equipollence are party to these various disputes leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment with regard to the matters in question.

2) I think it's ok as it is. 'Their' could be confusing, in place of the first possessives; and 'it' would sound stiff, in place of the later 'they'! There isn't any danger of confusion, because by the time you start using 'they' and 'their', it's clear who you're talking about.

3) "I emphasise this point because Bett has indicated, in a personal communication on the subject of his paper, that Annas had claimed that contemporary ethical skepticism rests on a non-skeptical position regarding science, and that what he had intended to prove was that this need not be so."

4) Does this change your meaning?

"It follows from this that when I translate the term anepikritos as “undecidable”, I do not use this word in a strong sense. I think that if up to this point the arguments put forward by the parties in a dispute have appeared to have equal force, it is consistent to say that at least so far it has not been possible to give assent to any of the contending positions".

Have I missed any other questions? Bump them up if so!

MrP
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
No problem at all. After all, you’re are helping me even if there’s no reason to do so.

1) Yeah, the sentence didn’t sound ok. I think that the following keeps the same meaning. What do you think of this:

“The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the apparently equipollent positions which are party to these various disputes leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment with regard to the matters in question.”

4) How about this?:

“It follows from this that when I translate the term anepikritos as “undecidable”, I do not use this word in a strong sense. I think that if up to this point the arguments put forward by the parties in a dispute have appeared to one to have equal force, it is consistent to say that at least so far it has not been possible to give one’s assent to any of the contending positions.”

Perhaps "one" sounds better.

Sextus
But there is something distressing in the sight of unanswered posts drifting onto page 4 or 5. Rather as if they were floating out into the open sea.

#1 is fine, but I wonder if it could be compressed:

'Since it is impossible to assent to any of the seemingly equipollent positions in these disputes, the Pyrrhonist suspends judgment.'

In #4, 'one' is slightly awkward. How about this:

“It follows from this that when I translate the term anepikritos as “undecidable”, I do not use this word in a strong sense. I think that if up to this point the arguments put forward by the parties in a dispute have appeared to a neutral observer to have equal force, it is consistent to say that at least so far it has not been possible for that observer to assent any of the contending positions.”



MrP
I've sent the paper. As always, your corrections and suggestions have proved to be extremely useful. Thanks a lot.

See you,

Sextus
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
My pleasure, Sextus! Good luck with the paper, and post again.

MrP
Show more